Three years ago I was privileged to travel to Africa with plans to visit the three African nations identified in the title with Seventy Friday Mbaoma. We spent a wonderful week each in Uganda and Kenya. However, I ran into visa difficulties in Nigeria and was unable to complete our ministry there at that time, having to leave them with the promise to return.
About three years ago the Church began a correspondence with a young man in Minsk, Belarus, who had discovered the Remnant Church on the Internet. After much back and forth communication, we discovered that there were a number of persons very interested in our Church who wished to have someone come and share the gospel with them. In early March of this year plans were finalized to combine a return trip to Africa with a trip to Minsk, to take place shortly after the General Conference of this past April.
On April 14th I flew from Kansas City to Frankfurt, Germany, for a connecting flight to Minsk. The flight into Frankfurt was delayed slightly and I missed the connection and had to have a reassignment. The resulting delay, as well as the next flight needing to make a stop in Vienna, Austria, caused me to arrive at the airport in Minsk at 11:30 PM instead of the expected 2:00 PM time.
However, I was met at the airport by Sergei Gorshkov and his son Daniel. They had patiently waited for me throughout those long hours of wondering if I was truly coming or not. After a lengthy ride from the airport to their apartment in Minsk, I met the other member of their family, Olga, Sergei’s wife and Daniel’s mother, who graciously welcomed me into their home and life. Although it was very late, supper had been prepared, and we all sat down together to become more familiar with each other. I stayed with them in their small three room apartment for the six days I was in Belarus.
Sergei and Olga also have two married daughters who live outside of the city on farm property. Ekateryna (Kate) and Daria (Dasha) and their husbands have built their homes very close to each other and love the rural life. Their children walk approximately five kilometers to school each day as there is no bus service such as we have in the United States. These two families also became a lively part of my time in Belarus.
While in Belarus I met and visited with approximately twenty-five other individuals and families, all very interested in the Remnant Church. Most of these were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) who were curious enough to come and spend hours discussing points of doctrine and theology. Sometimes these conversations would last for seven or eight hours, with breaks for tea and food, and then the conversations would continue right where we left off.
The majority of questions circled around the concepts of succession of presidency, the practice of polygamy in the early Church, and our view of marriage and the sealing of marriages for eternity. After many days and lengthy sessions of discussion, twelve individuals were ready for baptism. With those baptisms and confirmations, and two ordinations to the office of elder, this small group then voted to become the first mission in Belarus of the Remnant Church.
Brother Sergei Gorshkov was elected to serve as the mission president and his son Daniel will serve as his counselor. Over time, there are other men of high quality who will likely be called upon to serve as ministers within this mission, most of them still waiting for baptism. My latest communication with Brother Sergei indicates that he and two other men, Daniel and Serafim Kiryienko, meet on Fridays to plan the worship service and program for the following Sunday, and that they are continuing the visits and conversations with those who came to their home and spent those many hours with us during my time there.
April 22nd found me leaving Minsk in the early morning hours and flying to Lagos, Nigeria, to meet up with Brother Friday Mbaoma. I left Minsk with the morning temperature around 40 degrees and landed in Lagos with it hovering around 100 degrees. Quite a change in the weather.
After a night’s rest, we traveled to a small mission just north of Lagos named Alagbado. This is a very poor mission with approximately twenty members and attendees. As they cannot afford a place to rent for their worship, they attempt to meet in the home of the pastor. However, this causes friction between them and the neighbors who object to the "noise" of the singing and worshipping.
As we might expect, the mission member’s primary concern is their inability to afford a place in which to worship and gather together without interference by those around them. For those of us who have such places available to us each time we desire to come together, this is a concern likely very foreign to us.
April 24th found us flying toward Uganda for our week there. Our flight from Lagos to Entebbe, Uganda, via Nairobi was delayed three hours, causing us to miss the connecting flight on to Entebbe. Our rescheduled flight finally touched down at 4:00 AM, and then we had an hour ride by taxi to Kampala and our hotel. By 6:30 AM we were ready for some much needed rest.
That afternoon (the 25th) found us meeting with the leadership of Uganda along with some of the members. We met in our hotel room for about three hours and heard their concerns, as well as their hopes and dreams, for the ministry in their land. The major focus of the meeting was the members’ need to be assured that those in leadership roles in Uganda would truly serve the needs of the various missions and the members of the Church. You can imagine that it was a lively and forthright conversation, as there were many who believed that their leaders had not paid enough attention to them up to this time.
By the close of the meeting it was decided that they would allow these men the next five months to demonstrate the leadership skills and provide the missions, priesthood, and Saints, with the support they expected. Elder and Chairman Samuel Muzaale, Elder Thomas Yiga, and Elder Kasule Abdul each agreed that they needed to work more closely with each other and assist the Saints in a more productive manner.
The next day, Brother Friday and I, along with members of the leadership team in Uganda, began meeting with the three existing missions in Uganda – Entebbe, Kampala, and Mukono. We also spent several hours in Jinja, a large town northeast of Kampala. There we met with nine men very eager to become members of the Remnant Church and looking for extended visits by someone in leadership to teach them more of the Church. We commissioned Brothers Muzaale and Yiga to make sure this follow-up ministry was completed.
As we met with the Saints in Mukono, we discovered that Elder Abdul had been very busy these past years, attempting to spread the "good news" of the gospel throughout his town. He had prepared a second group of people for baptism while we were there. Further, he had prepared several young men to step forward as leaders of this mission. Both Brother Friday and I found that his preparatory work was done exceedingly well, and there was no reason for what Brother Abdul had put in place to not be fulfilled.
Brother Friday baptized fifteen new members. The Ugandan leadership, Brother Friday, and I all shared in the joyous ministry of the confirmations. Five men were also set apart in ministry; four as elders and one as a priest. The group already has a Church home as one of the new members has graciously agreed that they can worship in his home; a very substantial place which will meet their needs for a long time. This will become the Kitete Mission, the second in Mukono, Uganda.
There is further good news coming out of Mukono. The first mission there has been offered the use of a building for Church services, rent free, for the next four years. The owners, who are Church members, only require that the Church complete the toilets and provide adequate windows in the building. Once these needs are met, the mission can have the use of the building 24/7 for the next four years. This is an excellent gift for this small mission, and we hope the Lord will allow them the opportunity to find the funds to make the requested repairs.
May 2nd found Brother Friday and I flying to Nairobi, Kenya, followed by a six-plus hour ride in a taxi to Kisii, a city on the eastern edge of Kenya and the hub of our ministry in Kenya. There, the national leadership is provided by Elder William Alando as Chairman, and Elders Nixon Muloma, and David Nyaboga as his counselors. While there, we visited with five missions and one development area, and baptized six new members. The missions in Kenya include Nyamesocho Mission, the Kisii Mission, the Sori Migori and Suna Migori Missions, and the Mikuru Mission.
The development area we visited was in the middle of the Maasai Tribe of Kenya. We spent a wonderful afternoon with them, meeting in the home of one of those interested in the Remnant Church. Elder Dennis Kamau has been ministering to these people for several years, and his labor is beginning to bring forth fruit. He has two groups in the Maasai area but, due to time constraints, we were only able to meet with this one.
At the Sori Mission, we met with eleven priesthood and other leaders of the mission in an extensive conversation regarding the financial law of the Church, especially how tithing is to be taught and practiced. As it is with most other Christian beliefs, ten percent of income has been the staple belief of these Saints. Some found it very interesting to learn that the Remnant Church does not follow that practice. There is so much to teach and so little time to teach it.
At each mission, in each nation, the people we met with greeted us with the greatest of respect and appreciation. This was especially true in Kenya as the Saints seemed to appreciate so much having someone from the leadership of the Church take the time to come and visit with them. It was an honor to be with such devoted and loyal believers.
We ended our time in Kenya with another long taxi ride from Kisii back to Nairobi and our next flight to Lagos, Nigeria. On the 10th of May I made it through Nigerian customs, this time without difficulty or problems. It is amazing what holding the proper visa can do for you when you travel overseas!
In Nigeria, our leadership team is comprised of Seventy Friday Mbaoma, serving as National Chairman, and Elders Jude Oparaugo and Andy Anochie serving as his counselors. Due to the need for extensive air travel, these last two men were unable to travel with us except for our time in the Lagos area. But while in Nigeria, and counting our first visit to Alagbado, Brother Friday and I visited with four more missions and two development areas.
In Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, we baptized and confirmed six young men and ordained a priest to serve as the pastor of this small mission. Like many other places, this small group has no home place to worship. They meet in the home of Brother Friday’s daughter, Blessing, and her husband Jude. With his ordination to the office of priest, Brother Jude was selected to serve as the president of this mission due to the employment absence of the individual who had previously served as their president.
Traveling on to Owerri and Umuahia, we met with the people in those towns for worship and conversation. Everywhere we went, they were hungry to hear about the Church and what was happening back in America. We found them very well informed on Bountiful, Consecration, and other topics which we might have thought had no interest to them. How wrong we were! Owerri is a small group of which Brother Friday knew. Their pastor had visited with him about the Remnant Church, so we spent the evening with them, preaching and teaching to about twenty or so people, many of them youngsters. Umuahia is a struggling mission of some twenty-plus members looking for a permanent home in which to worship. They currently meet in Elder Prince Odioma’s small home.
In Brother Friday’s home village of Umika, we found fifty or more people waiting for us in the center of town. Sunshades had been erected and chairs for the area dignitaries had been set up. Many people were in attendance to hear what we might say regarding the Remnant Church. You could tell that Brother Friday was deeply touched by the outpouring of respect and interest of these neighbors of his, and his family.
One of the dignitaries present for our time there was the Provisional Prime Minister – a very important governmental person. Also in attendance was the mayor of the village and assorted other dignitaries and ministers of other faiths. In my time of sharing with these people, I spent about an hour talking about the need for each one to have the courage to "get out of the boat," using Peter’s example, as the foundation for my thoughts. This was a powerful time as God seemed to open up thoughts and concepts freely during my time visiting with them.
At the close of my "sermon," the Prime Minister stood and promised us that this community, and its leaders, would do everything possible to see that our Church would become established in this village. Further, a cousin of Brother Friday stood and donated a piece of land to the Remnant Church in Nigeria so that a building could be built for worship. One pastor, a lady, indicated that she found my remarks very interesting and wanted to learn more about the Remnant Church. I urged her to take time to visit with Brother Friday, and then invited her to "step out of her boat" and trust God’s Spirit to lead her into more truth. This was a marvelous morning and afternoon in Umika as the Spirit was in abundance and overflowed into the hearts of these people
On Sunday, the 15th of May, we met with Brother Friday’s mission in Lagos for a Sacrament service. We had a long flight from Owerri that morning which was delayed for several hours, causing us to arrive that much later to the service in Lagos. As we entered the small chapel around 1:00 PM, they were just beginning to sing "The Spirit of God Like a fire is Burning." What a wonderful hymn with which to enter into a service. They sang with great joy and gusto, and I felt right at home with these Saints even though my home was thousands of miles away. We had a beautiful Communion service, and fellowshipped with the Saints for a long time after the service had ended.
On May 17th I began my long journey home. Five weeks on the road, many thousands of miles of travel, hours seemingly without end spent in airports, and countless opportunities to share the gospel time and time again – all now ending as my plane began its fourteen hour flight from Lagos, Nigeria, to Houston, Texas. I left those lands with many more friends to be remembered and cherished. I left with a greater understanding of the needs and desires of our brothers and sisters of those faraway places. I believe I also left them with a greater understanding of the direction and purpose of the Remnant Church – and their individual responsibilities to it.
The years ahead will bring many challenges to the Remnant Church, especially in learning how to best minister to these distant children of God. Rest assured, America; they are waiting for the call to gather – to come to Zion! They speak of Bountiful and of the Center Place.
I was repeatedly asked two questions: "Who is Zion for?" and, "Can I ever live in Zion?" Do we truly believe the time will come when we will have a place prepared, both physically and in our hearts, for them?
Thank you, Saints, for your ongoing support of the Remnant Church and for supporting our missionary outreach which truly takes us from nation, to city, to town, and to village; a ministry that takes us to places where the creations of God wait for the opportunity to become His sons and daughters. As our President/Prophet Frederick N. Larsen often says, "So let it be done!"